Mantra Meditation – A Classic
Mantra meditation is one of the great, classic meditative traditions — the fruit of thousands of years of meditators handing down their discoveries — and is a superb core practice. It is also is an excellent meditation technique for newcomers because it’s so very easy to do.
A mantra is pretty concrete, which makes it easy to stay with, and is particularly good at displacing verbal thought. Mantras are also pretty magical, with a special beauty all their own.
As with most practices, mantra meditation operates on an important fundamental principle: where your attention goes, energy flows. When you put your attention on a meditative anchor — be it a mantra, chakra, or the breath — energy flows to it and enlivens the work. It’s how you tap into the juice.
It can be illuminating to know something of the philosophy behind the practice. Most mantras are in Sanskrit and refer to qualities or names of the Divine. The mantra is thought to be imbued with holy energies, with these qualities of the Divine, and the thinking is that while meditating, some of these holy energies are bestowed upon you.
There is a form of meditation that comes from the Christian faith – a meditative tradition known as contemplative prayer – in which you center your attention on higher-order concepts (such as holiness), or on the Divine, using words in your own language.
And, if all these mystical explanations sound pretty out there to you, no worries – you don’t have believe any of it! It will still work. Just think of a mantra as a simple tool to help you move into a meditative state.
The Practical Stuff
The practice itself is fairly straightforward — you simply repeat your mantra to yourself silently. That may sound a little trying, but actually, once you’ve got it going, it becomes pretty effortless. The mantra kind of repeats itself, like a favorite song that plays itself in your head.
You may conceptualize the mantra as the sound of the words or you may see it as written letters, traveling across your inner screen as you hold it in your awareness. Insofar as spatial orientation, you can place the mantra with one of the chakras — in the region of the forehead or the heart, for example — or you can simply let it resound through you.
The pace at which you repeat the mantra should be leisurely and relaxed, in a way that feels natural to you. There should be no sense of strain — just ease as you’re saying the mantra.
You can have empty pauses, even long empty pauses, in between repetitions. You know a pause has been too long if you find yourself following a thought — once thought starts to arise you return to the mantra. You’ll discover that as you do so, the mantra displaces the thinking — it sort of sweeps it away, leaving you once again in just being.
It’s actually good to be in the kind of meditative state where long spaces naturally occur between repetitions. You may find yourself sort of above or behind the mantra, just being, relaxed and easy, basking in the juice, with the mantra passing across your inner screen from time to time. That’s perfectly normal (for meditation) and is, in fact, a really good state to be in.
Distractions and Sensations
When your attention wanders, as it naturally will, you just come back to the mantra. Having your attention wander is perfectly normal, part of the process, and will happen a million times. When you notice that you’re off on a train of thought, just gently disengage from the thoughtstream and go back to the mantra.
Each time you do so — each time you let go of the thinking and bring your attention back to the mantra — it takes you a little bit deeper, a little further into a meditative state.
Any number of sensations may arise: swirling, indefinable energies, a sense of expansion, tingling or light buzzing, feelings of pressure or contraction, or you may feel an undercurrent of emotion bubbling up into your conscious awareness.
Whatever comes up, just notice it and experience it. There is nothing you need to DO. In fact, don’t try to change anything – just be with it.
You might think of it as a journey through your interior landscape — an ever-changing experience of different states and sensations — and you’re in the passenger seat, just experiencing it all.
Your mind may start telling stories about the sensations — naming and dialoguing. Try not to get involved in the verbal thinking — just notice the thoughts, label them “thinking,” and keep holding the mantra in your awareness.
Closing Your Meditation
It’s best to come out of meditation gradually. Ending meditation abruptly is like standing up too fast — it can be jarring and leave you a little off balance.
Once your time’s up, give yourself a couple of minutes to shift out of a deeper state and into everyday consciousness, slowly and gently.
You’ll let your mantra go and just sit quietly, shifting your attention from an inward to an outward focus, expanding your awareness to include the sounds and vibrations of the world around you.
This is also a very good time for a moment of appreciation, to acknowledge your higher source and give thanks.
Cultivating Your Practice
While its very good to shop around and explore different techniques — to find out what works best for you — it’s also good to give a practice a chance to flower within you.
If you’re a yoga enthusiast, you know that the first few times you do a sequence, the experience can be pretty cerebral – you’re thinking about how to place your hands, feet and body. But after a few times, something’s shifts. Your body syncs with the new sequence and the experience is now completely different – kinesthetic and delicious. Meditation is a lot like that.
So, it’s good to choose a choose a practice and stay with it for a while — a month or so is good — to get a real feel for how well it works for you.
The Next Step: Choose a Mantra
The next step in your mantra meditation journey is to choose a mantra (if you don’t already have one you like).
On the next page you’ll find a selection of mantras to consider, as well as a little guidance on how to choose. Just click the button.
Excerpted from the book
by Sharon Rose Summers